Local Author Jonathan Kravetz Makes His Novel Debut

 Local Author Jonathan Kravetz Makes His Novel Debut

By Katie McFadden

“A fascinating, potent examination of how a single violent act can spark endless repercussions,” a Kirkus review of Rockaway resident Jonathan Kravetz’s first published novel reads. “How We Were Before” officially comes out on Monday, May 20.

Originally from Massachusetts, the fiction novel takes place in a fictional town, “Benfield,” based on some of the real places where Kravetz grew up. But as of four years ago, Kravetz moved to Arverne from Brooklyn, joining his girlfriend and fellow writer, Claire Van Winkle of the Rockaway Writers Club, who had been here since 2010.

Kravetz has spent most of his life writing. He spent some time as a reporter in Massachusetts but found his specialty in short stories and playwriting. His short story, “Conch,” was the Fiction Category winner for the Fall 2017 issue of Cardinal Sins, and many of his other stories have appeared in a variety of journals. He spent many years encouraging others in their craft, founding DUCTS.org, a biannual literary webzine devoted to publishing engaging personal essays, memoirs, art, fiction, humor and more, serving as it’s Editor in Chief from 1999 to 2019. His plays have been produced in New York City, England, and Dallas, and a few have reached semi-finalist and finalist status in various playwriting contests. He even teaches fiction and dramatic writing and is the founder of the monthly reading series, Trumpet Fiction, at KGB Bar in the East Village.

But a published novelist was something not quite on Kravetz’s long writing resume, until now. It wasn’t for a lack of trying. He says he tried writing a few novels that were ultimately met with many rejection letters from agents. But when he read “The Imperfectionists,” by Tom Rachman, he drew inspiration to give novel writing another shot. About seven years ago, Kravetz had written a series of short fiction stories relating to very real events and people from his hometown. From a double murder of an elderly couple, carried out by someone he knew from elementary school to a crooked chief of police that stole drugs to sell on the street, and others, Kravetz began developing these characters and telling their various stories, with intentions of one day turning it into a novel. He followed through and about two years ago, while on vacation in Saugerties, Kravetz finally got an email that wasn’t another rejection. Running Wild Press wanted to publish his novel.

And Kravetz has been running wild since in anticipation of its release, letting folks know about his debut novel, sending copies out for reviews, and planning release events and book signings. The first of which will take place on May 25, around the area where the book takes place, at a bookstore called An Unlikely Story in Plainville, MA, the town where his sister still resides. Among those attending will be Kravetz’s very excited and proud parents, the former editor of the newspaper that he worked at, who he hasn’t seen in 35 years, friends, other family and more. “I’m very excited, but nervous,” Kravetz said. It will be followed by another reading event in the Catskills on June 15, another at ReVision Lounge in Manhattan on June 25, and then he’ll be bringing it back to Rockaway with a reading event at Peninsula Library on Beach 94th Street on July 27 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Kravetz will have copies for sale at each event.

Kravetz des­cribes “How We Were Before” as “a novel of connected stories. And it all stems from the shocking murder of a glamorous elderly couple who are murdered in their sleep. The book then follows the stories of a series of characters connected to the incident, from the murderer to his friend that was at the scene but backed off before the murder, to the children of the couple, the corrupt police chief, a vice principal at the local school, close family friends and more. In 12 chapters, one for each month of the year following the murder, the stories tell how this horrific incident affected the characters in different ways, with tidbits woven in between that tell the story of the murdered couple. As Alice Elliott Dark, author of “Fellowship Point” says, “This is a wise and poignant book.”

Kravetz calls Dark one of his writing mentors, as well as his teacher, Fred Hudson. But he gives Van Winkle major credit for helping him with this novel in particular. “This book would not exist without Claire, so it’s dedicated to her. She helped me tremendously. She read every story multiple times, gave me notes, even though I wasn’t always the easiest person to give notes to, but I listened and it made the book a lot better. She was my first editor,” Kravetz said.

To see his first novel finally be published is surreal. “It feels great but it’s also a little bit surreal. Part of me can’t quite digest it. I don’t think it will feel totally real until the first reading,” he said.

And hopefully, it won’t be his last. Kravetz is already putting the finishing touches on his second novel, and this time, it takes place in Rockaway. After his first book was accepted by Running Wild two years ago, Kravetz got to work on his next project that he describes as “a totally ridiculous story. It’s so silly.” He says, “I decided to write something set in Rockaway and I wrote some funny couple of pages and showed it to Claire, and she said ‘yes, do this.’ That took about two years and has gone through many iterations, but I’m just about ready to send it out.”

In the meantime, “How We Were Before,” is available in most places where books are sold, including on Amazon, starting May 20. For more information about Kravetz and his work, see: www.jonathankravetz.com

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